Unilever has confirmed that by 2025 it will halve its use of virgin plastic, by reducing its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tons and accelerating its use of recycled plastic. In addition, it says it will help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
According to Unilever, this commitment makes it the “first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio.”
Unilever says is already on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025.
“Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO. “Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
According to Jope, this will demand “a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products. It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”
Unilever’s commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tons of plastic annually by 2025. This will be delivered through investment and partnerships which improve waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which Unilever operates.
Since 2017, Unilever has been transforming its approach to plastic packaging through its ‘Less, Better, No’ plastic framework. Through Less Plastic Unilever has explored new ways of packaging and delivering products— including concentrates like tge Cif Eco-refill, which eliminates 75% of plastic, and new refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent rolled out across shops, universities and mobile vending in South East Asia.
Other innovations include a detectable pigment being used by Axe (Lynx) and TRESemmé , which makes black plastic recyclable as it can be seen and sorted by recycling plant scanners.
Unilever has brought to the market innovations including shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes, and signed up to the Loop platform, which is exploring new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products from consumers’ homes.